Travel time of over two hours to the higher reaches of the Thames renders a day adventure impracticable, so the idea of a two-day trip was born. However accommodation next to the Thames is scarce and the laws of supply and demand mean that riverside hostelries specify expensive two day stays at weekends. So a midweek trip was planned. The put in at ‘St Johns Lock, just downstream from Lechlade was not as straight forward as it looked, the concrete slipway was very steep and resulted in one damp and one very wet paddler.
Once underway the scenery was lovely, the river is perhaps 15 to 20 feet wide and very rural. All the locks are manual, so ‘someone’ had to jump out of their boat at each lock, open the sluices to fill the lock (we were going downhill) and then manhandle the gates. At one point a terrible roaring heralded an appearance by a USAAF Stealth Bomber, an amazing sight, although in this context it seemed anything but ‘stealthy’. The going was fairly slow for the first 6 miles, possibly because the river course is very twisty and paddlers were constantly adjusting their course.
Having negotiated two locks we noticed a sign at Radcot Lock offering a ‘Canoe Pass’. Steve bravely disappeared down it and some anxious moments later the rest of the group followed. It was as good as flume ride at a theme park and we vote that all locks should have one! Shortly after this we spotted a good exit point and make a late lunch stop. At this point at 16:00 hours we had covered just 6.5 miles of the sixteen miles planned for the day and we had some concerns about what time we would arrive at Newbridge – more specifically, whether the pub would still be serving food!
Shenaz, Jon’s wife was waiting for us at Newbridge with a car, and she took Kathy and Jon back to the start point to collect the support vehicles and canoe trailer. Unfortunately they got lost on the way when Jon’s GPS phone gave up, but we all settled down a well earned meal and a few drinks when they eventually got back (fortunately the pub was serving meals until late).
Kathy and Jim set off back to Newbridge to collect the car and trailer, while the rest of the group carried the kayaks through from the riverside to the car park and then established a base in the garden for what turned out to be an excellent meal and refreshments (apart from an unwise choice of ‘craft’ beer by Bernie for Lee).
It was an epic trip (28 miles in two days) and our best adventure yet! Next year, we will have to do Godstow Lock to Wallingford via Abingdon on the next leg of our journey down the entire length of the non-tidal Thames from Cricklade to Kingston.